THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON–An off-the-cuff review

We saw THE AVENGERS: Age of Ultron today. When I heard they were going to do Avengers movies with all those high cost special effects, big money actor superheroes, I thought, they at least have to have a decent budget, good production values–they did and do–but they could still screw it up. But, they had Joss Whedon, good director and writer who respected the underlying comic book fantasy (though if it’s technically genre science fiction…let’s face, it’s fantasy) and I thought …even THEN juggling, all these huge, wild characters, all these over the top story elements, how does it not come off awful? Big money, good actors behind that Green Lantern picture but that was mostly a mess. And only one big superhero in Green Lantern! Somehow, Whedon pulled it off…of course, I thought, it’s at best only going to be like a high quality amusement park ride. And that’s okay, it should be a ride, it should be thrilling and fun and nostalgic and colorful and a blast. The first Avengers film was that, and had some classic moments.

The second–I figured it’d be okay but a step downward. But in fact–to my astonishment– it’s a better movie. It’s sometimes better than a cinematic amusement park ride. It has actual character development in it. The special effects on the Hulk are of variable verisimilitude–sometimes he looks real, sometimes not so much. But he seems like a real person in the story. The production makes it work.

I guess I could complain they almost went too far; tried to do too much. Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision–all brought in. The Vision is done very well indeed. Paul Bettany plays him–actually he and the animators play him–and he really brings it off. James Spaader as the voice of Ultron–very good, distinctive character, not a cliched super villain. Something of Tony Stark in him, for a reason. (They didn’t, for me, quite pay off that part–Stark never quite came to terms with that…)

Robt Downey Jr makes the trip worthwhile anyway…He’s such great company as Tony Stark. Scarlett Johansson makes her “Black Widow” character come alive. She’s quite touching as the powerful adult woman who has grown up as best she can from a damaged, cruelly conditioned little girl.

They had this incredibly powerful superhero The Vision in there, he was in the battle, toward the end…then they sort of lost him. Where’d he go? He shows up at the climax, sure but–in between? There’s a continuity gap there.

Hawkeye was developed quite well as a character; Captain America was exactly the heroic leader, the almost Presidential (in the best sense) character of the comics…The science-fictional ideas underlying Ultron, a bit like Terminator 2 concepts, were realized with visual aids, holographic imagery that went a long ways toward making them believable: well-thought-out science fiction woven into the comic-book fantasy.

It was all very much like Marvel. The battles, the slowed down action in places, very much evoked big action panels in old Avengers. I don’t see how the Marvel fans could be unsatisfied. The young Marvel comics fan in me really enjoyed it.

Listen, the point I was trying to make at the beginning …it’s amazing they can make this cinematic carnival work at all. Whedon just somehow…did it. Making a GOOD movie is an act of will. The director has to will it into being despite the producers…Whedon does it.

And again, this is not Olivier in a movie of Hamlet or something. This is a Superhero Movie. So hold it to THOSE standards, superhero movie standards…and it pays off.

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